Sidewalk development on North Lake Avenue isn't going to happen overnight, but some city council members said they're glad the discussion forced them to brush the dust off of the city's comprehensive plan.
City council members once again talked sidewalks and a potential Super Wal-Mart development at the old Sale Barn site during a meeting yesterday. The North Lake Avenue sidewalk issue first came up when landowners of the Sale Barn site asked to be annexed into the city at a council meeting last month. The city's traffic safety team was directed to study the issue.
The traffic safety team's report included a survey of several North Lake businesses.
The team recommended a "northern loop" to not only extend the city's trail system, but to also provide access to North Lake businesses. The northern loop is included in the city's comprehensive plan and calls for an 8-foot sidewalk north off Seneca to C-49, then west crossing Lake Avenue to Vestal, and then south.
"With the development of this type of system we would submit that not only is the City developing a pedestrian system to service the north side of the City, but it is doing it in a fashion that would displace some of the pedestrian traffic away from the busy Lake Avenue, at the same time providing an avenue to the Lake Avenue corridor for customer access," the report says.
Several state programs, such as REAP and TEA 21, could be hit up for potential funding.
Council member Dennis Vaudt raised several objections to the northern loop concept, saying in the winter it would be a "cold and dark" path. He said people would not walk out of their way, and would instead use the most direct route.
Council member Wally Burns agreed, saying he didn't think people would walk out of their way for a sidewalk.
Vaudt, who brought the sidewalk issue up last month, continued to stress the need for a sidewalk/trail system along North Lake. "That's the only place we can buy certain things," he said, referring to Wal-Mart. "This is going to become a major shopping area. I think... for people to use it, (a path needs to be) placed it along North Lake Avenue."
He said sales tax revenue, projected at $150,000 a year from a Super Wal-Mart, could be used to fund the sidewalk/trail system. Vaudt added that a trail system and landscaping could make the North Lake corridor more attractive to people entering the town.
A rough estimate in the traffic safety team's report shows that sidewalk on the west side of North Lake, from 10th Street to C-49, would cost approximately $161,000. A sidewalk on the east side from McDonald's to C-49 would cost approximately $84,500.
A survey by the chamber was done in conjunction with the sidewalk study. Of the surveys returned, 14 of the businesses s said a North Lake sidewalk would be a positive development; seven disagreed. Whether a sidewalk was necessary, nine said yes and 13 said no.
One business owner wrote, "Get off this sidewalk issue and start being pro-development."
Mayor Jon Kruse urged caution between developing a trail system and a sidewalk for businesses. He said if a sidewalk is built servicing North Lake retailers, then the city would have to justify providing snow removal there when it currently does not in the downtown.
Council member Julie Egland said she believes pedestrians and bicyclists would prefer the northern loop idea, where they would be away from the traffic and congestion.
"If we would continue the trail system up this way, I think it would benefit all of Storm Lake," she said. "I think turning traffic is a real hazard for pedestrians."
Vaudt said the council could wait before making any decisions. Council member Jim Treat agreed and suggested the council was "putting the cart before the horse" without a Super Wal-Mart development started yet.
"In regards to what Denny says, we best build buildings and see where the traffic ends up," Treat said.
"It's good to have this discussion because we have a tendency to put the comprehensive plan away and forget about it," said Mayor Kruse, adding that the lake is the first thing to jump into most people's minds when they think trail.
Joe Galey, chair of the city's planning and zoning board, spoke at the meeting and urged council members to consider the long term in regards to new developments. He said some members of the planning and zoning board have been stressing the need for more planning in regards to new developments. He urged the city council to "plan now for the future."
"What the fear of members of planning and zoning is by putting this in the background it will be shoved back another five, six years," Galey said.